LAST WEEK, I had someone from the Rain Group reach out to me to talk about some new research they recently published. The Rain Group is a sales consulting, sales training and sales coaching company based in Framingham, Mass. It boasts a long list of high-profile clients such as Bank of America, DHL, John Hancock and Bright Horizons.
The two "co-presidents" of the company, John Doerr and Mike Schultz, are well-known in the sales training industry. Together they authored the bestselling book "Rainmaking Conversations: How to Influence, Persuade and Sell in Any Situation." It's certainly one of the most popular sales books out there and one that I have read and respect. To say the least, the Rain Group is a well-established and well-respected sales training organization.
The research summary was published by John Doerr and Mike Schultz. The title of the research summary is, "What Sales Winners do Differently. The surprising differences between sellers who win the sale and the second-place finishers." It's an interesting title and one that certainly piqued my curiosity.
After receiving the email communication from the Rain Group, I downloaded the research report and started sifting through all of the information. The 10-page report details the findings of a study that included 700 business-to-business sales opportunities. They focused on the differences between the sales executives who won those deals and of course the ones who didn't.
The most compelling claim is one that is sure to make sales leaders scratch their heads in disbelief. In the report, Doerr and Schultz "disagree wholeheartedly" with the authors of the Challenger Sale and their declaration that "the end of solution sales has come" and "selling is not about relationships." If you haven't heard of the Challenger Sale over the last year, you're probably not paying close attention to the evolution of selling and reading the latest business news. To say it's popular would be an understatement.
The Challenger Sale book and methodology are based on surveys conducted on more than 6,000 sales reps across the world. It's based heavily on research, which is the main reason why so many people find it compelling. It's being adopted at an extremely fast pace by companies of all sizes. And now, here comes another well-known sales training company making claims that portions of the Challenger Sale methodology are wrong. It's a very interesting position for both organizations.
As a neutral third party, I certainly respect the position Rain Group is in. They are responding to a very serious competitive threat in the marketplace. And I'm sure their customers are all talking about the Challenger Sale. Hence the likely reason for their recent research report. They need something to combat the flurry of Challenger Sale believers, and it better be good.
In the sales training world, you can compare this to the battles of Apple and Samsung. It's like a Coke and Pepsi war, but of course on a much smaller scale. The unfortunate part of this situation is that it's likely to confuse people responsible for identifying and implementing the most effective sales approaches within their organizations.
Here is something that I hope will help. First and foremost, spend time understanding any research or claims being made by a company. Take a hard look at the research in the Challenger Sale conducted by CEB. Dig into the research. How was it conducted? Who conducted it? And do the same for the Rain Group report. There is a difference you'll see right off the bat. First, the Challenger Sale is based on research of more than 6,000 sales professionals. The Rain Group report is based on 700 winners and losers of actual sales opportunities. Statistically speaking, the studies themselves are different, so it's reasonable to expect the outcomes will be too.
One of the great things about selling is there are so many different approaches, beliefs and techniques that people believe are effective. The key to any successful sales organization is to identify the various approaches that produce the best results. That can take a lot of time, effort and pain, but it's how the world's top-performing sales organizations do it. In my belief, there is no one cookie cutter sales approach that works for every company. And don't let anyone try to convince you of that.
Unfortunately, I can't give a complete analysis in the limited space I have here, so feel free to reach out to me if you want a more detailed opinion and guidance sifting through the conflicting information presented. And lastly, for those that believe relationships don't matter in selling, that couldn't be more further from reality. Relationships aren't the sole factor that determines success in sales, but they certainly are a factor.
Christopher Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.